Throwing together a party on the fly needn't be hard, especially come the weekend. Simply indulge (responsibly, of course) in one of these expert wine and food pairings. Your taste buds -- and guests -- will thank you.
Because the long weekend is upon us, we feel like celebrating.
And one of our favourite ways to do that is to open a crisp bottle of bubbly -- or refreshing white wine.
So we asked the experts at Jackson-Triggs and the LCBO for some tips on what to serve to honour May 2-4.
Try: A South African wine, like Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc or Flat Roof Manor Merlot. Jamie Drummond, a wine expert, tells us South African wines are on-trend this summer. "I think the most exciting thing about South African wines today is their vast breadth and scope. There are simply so many styles of wine, from so many interesting varietals, from so many climatically differing regions and crafted by so many innovative and trailblazing winemakers and the quality price ratio simply cannot be beat. The new South African wineworld is an exhilarating place, that's for sure." <strong>Pair this cocktail with...</strong>
Try: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/date-wraps_n_1049088.html" target="_hplink">Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates</a>. You can also serve these wines with a delicious assortment of cheese, crackers and chutneys. Here are Drummond's party appetizer tips. "At a wine and cheese gathering, one can never have too much food, so augment the cheese selection with a healthy array of cheese-friendly condiments and accompaniments served in simple ramekins." <strong>Membrillo: </strong>quince paste can be found in Portuguese and Spanish grocers. <strong>Chutneys:</strong> tamarind chutney is an unlikely partner, but is quite delicious <strong>Pickles:</strong> Branston Pickle works wonders with a traditional aged cheddar. <strong>Savoury preserves: </strong>if you can track them down, Austrian producer Furore has a great line of these. <strong>Wildflower honeycomb:</strong> often found at farmers' markets and speciality foodstores. <strong>Dried and fresh fruits: </strong>a favourite combination of mine is dried/fresh figs and ripe pears. <strong>Nuts: </strong>marcona almonds are a treat. <strong>Olives:</strong> serve a selection of green and black olives, drizzled with olive oil, laced with bay leaves, rosemary, garlic and orange peel, gently warmed in the oven. <strong>Bacon marmalade: </strong>that President's Choice Black Label stuff will surprise and delight your guests.
<strong>Try:</strong> Santa Margherita Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Brut Julianne Grabell, a LCBO product consultant, says "bubbly will not only add a sense of celebration [to a party], but will set your guests palate for an evening of tasting and experiencing... Prosecco, such as [this one], with it's light and refreshing flavour profile will pair nicely with most cheeses, but, in particular, harder sheep milk based cheese like parmesean regianno." <strong>Pair this cocktail with...</strong>
<strong>Try:</strong> A cheese and cracker plate. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/21/cheese-plate-tips_n_1163449.html" target="_hplink">Build one with these tips</a>. Here's a brief overview of some popular cheese flavours. <strong>Bloomy (buttery and rich):</strong> Brie or Camembert <strong>Blue (punchy and spicy): </strong>Roquefort or Gorgonzola <strong>Firm (supple and grassy): </strong>Aged Manchego or Cheddar <strong>Fresh (creamy and tangy): </strong>Unaged cheeses such as fresh chevre (goat cheese) or fresh mozzarella <strong>Hard (dry and caramelly): </strong>Aged Goudas or Parmigiano-Reggiano <strong>Semi-soft (pliable and melting): </strong>Alpine-style cheeses like Gruyère or Emmenthaler <strong>Washed rind (stinky and intense):</strong> Taleggio or Grayson
<strong>Try:</strong> Jackson-Triggs 'The Grigio Waltz' To toast the annual spring thaw, Jackson-Triggs Estate Chef Tim Mackiddie has added a twist to the traditional white wine spritzer with a series of herb and flower-infused cocktails. Here is one of his delicious and mouth-watering recipes. <em>Ingredients</em> 4-6 oz Jackson-Triggs Pinot Grigio 2 slices cucumber 1 tbsp pomelo or grapefruit 1 tbsp simple syrup 1/8 tsp pomelo or grapefruit zest Sprinkling of cilantro <em>Instructions</em> Muddle pomelo, zest and cilantro in a martini shaker. Add simple syrup and Jackson-Triggs Pinot Grigio. Shake and strain liquid into a mason jar or cocktail glass. Garnish with cucumber slice on glass. Serve chilled.
<strong>Try:</strong> Fresh Goat Cheese Pears With Pistachio Dust A cheese plate is a nice addition to any party. But instead of the usual block of cheese, cheese ball or cheese log, what about cheese in the shape of fruit? These adorable cheese "pears" are formed out of goat cheese and dusted with finely ground pistachios. Add an authentic touch with tiny herb leaves, like marjoram or oregano, to create the appearance of "real" pears. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/fresh-goat-cheese-pears-w_n_1062580.html" target="_hplink">Get the Fresh Goat Cheese Pears with Pistachio Dust recipe</a>.